UK rejects Trump call to recognise Israeli control of Golan Heights

David Gardner, NIcholas Cecil

Britain today rejected Donald Trump’s call “to fully recognise Israel’s sovereignty” over the Golan Heights.

With one tweet, the president tore up decades of US policy on the sensitive Middle East issue. In London, a Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK views the Golan Heights as territory occupied by Israel. This has not changed.”

Mr Trump made the comments in a tweet last night, when he said the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 before unilaterally annexing the area in 1981, were of “critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and regional stability”.

Until now the US had followed the United Nations stance that it could not recognise Israel’s annexation because the land was seized by an act of war. Israel’s premier Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Mr Trump in a phone call, telling him “you’ve made history”. The US move, which could also boost Mr Netanyahu’s re-election hopes ahead of next month’s ballot, sparked a major row with key players in the region. Syria accused Mr Trump of showing “blind bias” towards Israel.

A foreign ministry official added that the “irresponsible” comments threatened international peace and security, adding that the country was now determined to recover the occupied territory “through all available means”.

Russia and Iran, military allies of Damascus, condemned the shift towards recognition, with Russia claiming it would be a violation of UN resolutions. Turkey, a US-allied state, also criticised the move, saying that the “unfortunate” declaration had brought the Middle East to “the brink of a new crisis”.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan added: “We will never allow the legitimisation of the occupation of the Golan Heights.” The backlash came as US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, on a visit to Jerusalem, suggested that Mr Trump may be doing God’s work in supporting Israel.